Scranton, Penn., Sept. 18-- The mine known as Filer's Slope, operated by Filer & Livy, a short distance from this city, was the scene of one of the most painful accidents ever reported in this valley last evening, resulting in the instant death of a miner named Felix Slavin, and his assistant, John Dougherty, in the chamber where they were at work. They were engaged taking down a "skip," or loose piece of coal, when a huge boulder, known in mining parlance as "a black sulphur clod," weighing about three tons, descended upon them from the roof, killing both instantly, and crushing them together into a shapeless mass. A miner named Finnerty, working in an adjoining chamber, had been in a few minutes before the accident and warned Slavin and Dougherty of their danger, but they replied that the loose end was only "a little shell," and would not hurt anybody. When Finnerty heard the crash be knew what had happened and ran to where the accident occurred. To his horror he saw the miner and his assistant crushed by the "clod," their feet sticking out from under it and still moving. He called his comrades, and a gang of men speedily congregated at the chamber and engaged in the work of removing the boulder from the bodies. They found this a task occupying several hours. When it was finally accomplished, and Slavin and Dougherty were exposed to view, they presented a horrible picture. Their heads were crushed together, and they were disfigured beyond recognition. Strong miners, accustomed to fearful accidents underground, were compelled to turn aside and shudder as they contemplated the ghastly sight.

A peculiar feature brought to light by this grim occurrence, and one that seems almost incredible, is the fact that Slavin, the miner, had been totally blind from boyhood. Scarcely any other calling requires the exercise of such keen sight, yet this unhappy man groped his way for years amid danger, and trusting to the skill of his hands and the eyes of his assistant, plied his perilous vocation uncomplainingly. His early days were spent in the mines of England, where he learned the business and lost his eyes. He was quite expert in the use of the drill, and when his assistant once placed it accurately on the spot where the hole was to he drilled for the blast, Slavin, without deviating a hair's breadth, made the hole at the proper angle, and then superintended how it should be fired. He had been a miner 30 years without the use of his eyes, and managed to get along in a way that was altogether wonderful to contemplate. He leaves a wife and three children wholly unprovided for. His companion, Dougherty, who shared his fate, was also his companion in misery, having been a cripple from childhood. He was physically weak and decrepit, and in reality was nothing more than the eyes for Slavin's skill and brawny arms.

Some days ago George Filer, one of the owners of the mine, concious of the danger these two men were daring, gave them notice that he could not employ them any longer; but they pleaded piteously to be retained, saying it was the only way they could think of making a living, and so Mr. Filer permitted them to remain. Dougherty's wife is insane, and now an inmate of the Danville institution. The black sulphur clod by which these two men were killed is a good deal like lead in appearance and weight.

New York (New York) Times, September 19, 1880.

Copyright © 2007 Larry Slavens. All rights reserved.